At a recent Gulf Place photo shoot for our new real estate business cards, my wife and I posed, relaxed and natural, our backs against a tall, fuzzy clump of ornamental grasses. I hate having my picture taken. The fact that I was doing so without trepidation is a testament to the people skills of Fantasia Lyons, aka Little Miss Creative.
Putting her subjects at ease is a skill she cultivated in response to growing up with a lack of confidence. She was raised by her sister, fourteen years her senior, and her sister’s husband, in Pensacola, from the age of four. Her biological mother had addiction problems and was unable to provide a nurturing environment. Sister and Husband became Mom and Dad and their biological children became Fantasia’s younger siblings. Her struggles with anxiety during her teenage years led to what she describes as an all-time low. She got caught shoplifting.
“I was disgusted with myself,” she says, recalling the event. “I let my parents down. I let myself down. But what this and other experiences I had during these years did was help me have more compassion for young people struggling to find themselves.”
Like most young people, Fantasia had no clue what she wanted to do when she grew up. She was bored and bewildered by math and science classes, finding solace only in art, music and dance. She decided that she was either going to be a professional pianist, a counselor or teacher of some sort, or a missionary.
She started dabbling in photography after her grandparents bought her a pink plastic Hot Shot camera at a dollar store when she was about ten.
“It was kind of like a toy. But it wasn’t a toy. It really worked. It took real pictures.”
The camera allowed her to express herself artistically, but it never occurred to her at the time that it could lead to a career. Her parents wanted her to do something that would allow her to get a job. So she enrolled in the graphic design program at Pensacola State College. One of the classes required her to have a proper DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses. She invested about $600 and started getting serious about the craft.
While still in school the only outlet for her photographs was her MySpace page. A musician friend of hers saw her work there, thought it was pretty good, and asked Fantasia to take pictures of his Pensacola punk band, Revel. The gig earned her the first paycheck of her freelance career – $25.
In 2007 Fantasia was lured to the 30A area by another musician friend, and almost immediately nabbed a full-time position working for local fashion designer Judith March. She was able to put her graphic design degree to work, creating textile patterns and artwork for clothing sold in March’s Seaside store, Déjà vu. March also put her to work photographing fashion models for her online catalogs.
Fantasia launched her own photography business, Little Miss Creative, in 2010. She tested the waters for a while, trying to find her niche. She tried real estate photography, newborn photography, weddings. These were lucrative but left her feeling underutilized. What really got her blood flowing was working with young people. Her life experiences had predisposed her to identify acutely with teenagers, those who are often isolated and misunderstood. She found she had a knack for making young people feel comfortable and express their true personality for her camera. She had found her niche.